13 February 2020
A “ground-breaking” £5m research project dubbed a “virtual data centre” will use satellite images to better predict the future impacts of climate change, the government announced.
The Centre for Satellite Data in Environmental Science (SENSE) will see experts from the Universities of Edinburgh and Leeds adopt cutting-edge technology to measure rising sea levels, greenhouse gases and shrinking glaciers and forests.
Humans should then better understand climate change impacts and help shape policies on cutting emissions and contributing to reaching the UK’s net zero target.
Satellite technology will help predict weather trends and identify areas increasingly at risk of flooding, as well as pollution levels in towns and cities nationwide.
“The UK is leading the world in tackling climate change and we have set the bar high, as the first country to legislate to eliminate our contribution to climate change by 2050 and the fastest in the G20 to cut emissions,” said business secretary Andrea Leadsom. “This new satellite data centre will give us instant images showing us the true impact of climate change and in doing so, help us develop innovative new ways of tackling it.”
The virtual academic collaboration – established with funding from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the UK Space Agency (UKSA) – wants to attract 50 of the UK’s “brightest and best” candidates from environmental science, maths, physics, engineering and computer science disciplines to undertake a PhD in the innovation centre.
Successful candidates will work closely with experts from the universities as well as leading Earth Observation scientists, plus 18 businesses and partners, including Airbus and Unilever, which will co-fund, co-design and co-supervise 42 of the PhD research projects.
“Earth observation satellites collect hundreds of terabytes of data per day, delivering important information about how fast glaciers flow, the size of forest fires in the Amazon, and the quality of the air that we breathe,” said Dr Anna Hogg, co-director of the centre in the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds. “We have a fantastic opportunity to grow the community of researchers with the skills and knowledge to measure the how our environment is changing.”